ON AN opening day that saw title favourites South North and Chester-le-Street secure expected victories, and Blaydon slump to a shock defeat, Stockton began their campaign in convincing fashion as they won with seven wickets to spare at Benwell Hill.

An opening stand of 78 between Dan Young (40) and Sameet Brar (44) gave the Hill a strong foothold in the game, but a restrictive 20-over spell from Richard Waite (2-51) and a four-wicket burst by Kevin Ward brought the Teesiders back into the match as the home team were bowled out for 212 in the 65th over.

With Benwell’s outstanding overseas player, Zohaib Khan, not yet in the country, the Hill attack posed little threat to the visitors as youngster David Seymour made 91 in 151 balls. With Waite (39no) weighing in with a late 47-ball flurry, the Teessiders won with three overs to spare.

Champions South North were expected to begin their campaign with a victory as they were entertaining last year’s wooden spoonists, Gateshead Fell, and they duly obliged as Adam Heather hit 85 to lift the Bulls to 198-6 in 60 overs. Lee Crozier and Michael Craigs then shared eight wickets as Fell let a decent start slip to be bowled out for 156.

Chester-le-Street’s win at Hetton Lyons was comprehensive.

Simon Birtwisle (52), Andrew Smith (72) and Usman Arshad (75) propelled Chester to a 54-over declaration on 264-5, then Jonny Kean and Liam Simpson shared six wickets as the Lyons limped to 153 all out despite a half-century from skipper Shaun Birbeck.

A sensational debut by former Leicestershire player Jacques du Toit was behind the shock result of the day, Newcastle’s five-run victory at Blaydon. He hit eight fours and five sixes in a 93-ball 84, with the next top scorer making just 14, but Newcastle’s total of 173 looked vulnerable as another ex-county man, Danny Evans, picked up three wickets in his first game.

Yet another new boy, Craig Burke, then looked like inspiring Blaydon as his opening 67 helped ease his side to a commanding 124-3, but du Toit changed the game dramatically.

After cleaning up Burke, he grabbed four further wickets.

At Tynemouth, Max Morley took eight for 28 in 16 overs to secure Durham Academy a 51-run win, despite five wickets on debut for South African Ruham Pretorious.

Durham’s Mitch Claydon (4-28) ensured Sunderland had just 115 to chase to beat South Shields, and debutant Arsalan Rahim cracked a 23-ball half-century as the Wearsiders romped home.